NEO Attracts International Attention for Biomimicry Research

Japanese Delegation Visits Northeast Ohio

While Akron and Northeast Ohio have long been synonymous with rubbers and polymers, the region now has a new area of expertise: biomimicry. Home to the University of Akron Biomimicry Research and Innovation Center (BRIC) as well as Great Lakes Biomimicry, Northeast Ohio is progressively gaining recognition for its work in this growing field.

According to Biomimicry Institute, “biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.” In essence, biomimicry looks to emulate nature to address human engineering problems. For example, as engineers were looking for a way to decrease the noise generated by the Japanese Shinkansen Bullet Train when it emerged from a tunnel, they turned to nature for a solution. Seeking something that traveled quickly and smoothly between two very different mediums, the engineers decided to emulate the beaks of kingfishers, which dive from the air to water with little splash.  Modeling the front-end of the train after the kingfisher, the engineers were able to decrease the noise generated by the train while reducing the amount of electricity used.  This is just one example of biomimicry in action.

In Northeast Ohio, the Biomimicry Research and Innovation Center and Great Lakes Biomimicry are helping propel the region into the international spotlight as they work to make the region a center of excellence in this emerging field. To this end, the two organizations hosted a Japanese delegation earlier this year, where attendees had an opportunity to learn from the innovative work being conducted here. The Japanese delegation included representatives of the nation’s Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry; the Space Industry Office; the Japan Fair Trade Commission; and the departments of tourism development and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

While visiting, attendees saw how researchers at BRIC apply learnings from nature to human engineering challenges. With live snakes, spiders and geckos on hand, attendees got to see how research fellows study and interact with these creatures to learn from them and emulate them. The university has even created a robotic snake, designed to replicate a reptile’s movements. This unique robot particularly intrigued delegates as it innovators envision it being deployed in disaster situations, such as after an earthquake, to search through rubble. Delegates viewed this as a great use of technology for search-and-rescue missions, especially in Japan where earthquakes happen frequently.  Ultimately, attendees walked away with a new understanding of biomimicry, thanks to the great work happening right here in Northeast Ohio.

Home to several world-class higher education institutions, Northeast Ohio is quickly building its reputation as a center of innovation for biomimicry. As the only place in the world where students can receive PhD-level training in the field (thanks to its partnership with Great Lakes Biomimicry), the University of Akron is among the most elite universities for biomimicry research. With people already traveling across the globe to learn from the work taking place here, Northeast Ohio is a blazing a trail of innovation – a trail inspired by nature itself.

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